Saturday, March 15, 2014

Self Portrait Color Therapy

I have been struggling so much lately. I don't want to get in to that right now, but it's been sucky. (Yes, Spell Check, "sucky" IS a word, I don't care if you don't like it. (Totally fangirl channeling The Bloggess))

Anyway, stuff has been more difficult to deal with lately so I did something I haven't done in a very long time. I made an abstract self portrait using what I call Color Therapy.

When I was in high school I read a book about color psychology. I don't remember the title, but some of it stuck with me, especially the emotions ascribed to different colors. A year later a new friend and I developed a rapport and worked together taking turns drawing what we saw in each other, based on the order of colored crayons the person chose. I also started doing abstract, geometric self portraits of myself, attempting to shut down my over-thinking and just feel what I was doing, and then once I was done analyzed the result to see if I was ignoring how I was feeling about something.

This week, almost 10 years later, I remembered that technique and purchased a 50 color set of colored pencils and some watercolor paper. (I prefer the texture.) This was the result of my first attempt:

The World Without, The World Within

I'm not sure how long it took (Principal Daddy was home and kept the kids happy so I could have the space and time to do this) but it was at least an hour. I've shared the result with a small group and they expressed interest in the process, so I thought I'd write it up here for anyone who would like to try something similar.
You do not have to be an expert on color psychology. What is most important is identifying what emotions each color makes you feel, and then using them to express what you're feeling.

When I go through all the colors/emotions, starting at on point in the spectrum and using all of the colors in the rainbow, I end up feeling more calm, centered, and balanced.
I always start with the profile/outline. Sometimes it's a split face for conflicting emotions, sometimes, like here, it shows the contrast between how I'm feeling on the inside and how I perceive the world. Sometimes I am unhappy with the first attempts at the shape. I don't try for accuracy, rather a representation outline that I am happy with. With this attempt I used a white colored pencil and once I had what worked for me, went over it several times to make a deep indent.

I did not always put recognizable facial features on the portraits I did ten years ago. Those looked more like Picasso wannabes. But this time I felt very drawn to include an eye. Nothing else; just an eye. I knew that I intended to use a range of non-realistic colors with this project, but I felt compelled to make the eye as realistic as my meager skills were capable of. Honestly, I'm quite shocked at how well it turned out. I've never done such a good job before, and I'll probably never be able to replicate it.

Work in Progress
Then I colored in the face, expressing how I felt inside. Half way thorough I had the idea for what I wanted for the outside. Once I finished the whole work I realized that that muted, gray, slightly fuzzy/bland feeling inside meant I was/am depressed. I'd suspected earlier that week, but I didn't really recognize it as such until after I stood back and looked at what I had made.

So to recap, to do this yourself;
  1. Assign emotions to each of the 6 basic colors; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple/violet.
  2. Find some time when you won't be disturbed. (I consider this to be very important.)
  3. Draw an outline or profile. Make several, if you need to, until you are happy with what you have.
  4. Try to turn off your brain as much as possible and use intuition/what you feel drawing you.
  5. Color. Try to eventually get through all the colors if you are looking for balance. If you're just looking for expression and more discovery, only use what feels comfortable. 
  6. Step back, take a minute, and then use your brain to analyze what you're created.


  1. I'm knitting a mood scarf this year that is similar in idea. I have 6 emotions assigned to colors and knit a section for the feeling of the day for the year.

    1. Holly, I love that idea! That reminds me of a shawl I made over 10 years ago. I called it my "Tranquility Shawl" because the yarn was variegated soft shades of turquoise, blue, and purple. I need to find it again....


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...